Response to Retirement Housing Inquiry fails to provide access to justice

After six months of waiting, the Victorian Government has responded to the Inquiry into the Retirement Housing Sector, conducted by the Victorian Legislative Council.

The Victorian Government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry has failed to deliver, according to retirement housing residents and advocates. Despite nearly 800 submissions to the Inquiry and recommendations that promised meaningful reform, the pleas of residents have fallen on deaf ears, with many of the proposed reforms pushed off into the long grass of more reviews.

While the Victorian Government has accepted the Inquiry’s recommendation to launch a review into the Retirement Villages Act 1986 (the Act), it has pointed to various other inquiries and reviews underway, stalling a much-needed comprehensive review of the legislation. A review of the Act has been delayed until an unspecified date.

Of serious concern is the failure to remedy the serious problems identified in providing access to justice for the thousands of older Victorians and their families who are unable to resolve disputes with their retirement housing provider.  The Government can fix this by creating an ombudsman for low cost, timely and binding resolution of disputes.

According the Victorian Government’s response, ‘significant further analysis and evidence are required before a position on this recommendation can be determined’. Given the number of submissions outlining problems with dispute resolution in this sector, along with casework experience of leading community legal centres such as Consumer Action and the significant costs involved in going to court, we are surprised that further evidence is needed by the Victorian Government before it will act.

In relation to improving management training standards, the Victorian Government has left it up to industry to sort out. The response has also failed to deliver any meaningful change to harsh exit fees which can lock people into contractual arrangements. This is wholly unacceptable.

Residents and their families will ultimately pay the price for the Victorian Government’s inaction on retirement housing reform.

Comments attributable to:

Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action Law Centre

  • If you’re an older Victorian and want to resolve a problem with your retirement living, it should be cheap, quick and accessible. The evidence has shown that we need an ombudsman scheme for this sector.
  • Recent piecemeal inquiries by the Victorian Government into the sector have failed to reduce the complexity of contracts or improve outcomes for residents. We had hoped for a strong response from the Government today that showed it cared for residents and their families. Unfortunately, we were left disappointed.

Lawrie Robertson, Vice-President Residents of Retirement Village Victoria

  • There is no commitment in the Victorian Government’s response to improving the rights and protections for residents.
  • Our members had hoped for quick implementation of a simple, free, binding dispute resolution service and they have been left bitterly disappointed.

Ronda Held, CEO COTA Victoria

  • This is a lost opportunity for leadership in responding to the concerns of thousands of older Victorians and their families.
  • The Victorian Government had overwhelming evidence of the problems in this sector, and that evidence has been ignored.

Fiona York, Co-Manager, Housing for the Aged Action Group

  • None of the main concerns of residents have been adequately dealt with.
  • Residents’ concerns about unfair and confusing fees, management practices and dispute resolution have been either dismissed or deferred.

Consumer Action, HAAG, RRVV and COTA Vic are available for comment on the Government response to the Inquiry.

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